Creative Gifts for Writers 2018

Looking for that perfect gift to give your writer friend? We’re a quirky unique bunch. As an author myself, I’ve amassed my share of “Here’s a notebook I think you’d like”s over the years. I’m not complaining! Any well-intended gift is sincerely appreciated. But if you’d like to wow the pants off of your writer friend (or just get an all-caps THANKS!), here are some out-of-the-box, creative gift ideas. Some are standard but fun [wacky bookmarks] but others I guarantee you’ve never thought of before–and are–get this–free [book reviews]!! 

Please note I get no royalties or kickbacks from any of these external sites, and I cannot otherwise vouch for their awesomeness; I just happen to think they rock. 

1. Adorable, unique bookmarks

Sure, anyone with kids has bookmarks climbing out of our ears and flowing off our desks…but do we have any creeping out of our books? Creative ideas like these are sure to please even your writer friend that MAKES bookmarks.

2. Ways to not keep spouses/kids up at night when ideas strike

Don’t let them wake the house when they are up late catering to their muse. This cool nightlight not only opens up to the shape of a book (see what I did there!), it’s attached to a USB cable, allowing them to write by hand by plugging in their cell phone which is next to their bed anyway, or write on the laptop with just enough light to see the keys. This way they can stay in bed writing copious notes, or drift off to the side of the room without needing to turn on all the house lights to head downstairs.


Books on the craft of writing

Great books on writing are super easy to order online and have delivered to their door (but of course I’m going to suggest you get from your local bookseller). 

Cheers to you, writer friend!
  • 4. Champagne! 

Show them you have your full support, and that you believe in them, by buying them a bottle of champagne to celebrate their first/next/upcoming contract or milestone. It doesn’t have to be a fancy bottle, or break the bank. It’ll mean even more if you include a handwritten note of encouragement for them to reread when they are having a bad day. 

  • 5. Yoga class pass or membership

Give them time to get past redundancy and perhaps writers block, as they FINALLY LEAVE THE HOUSE to let those ideas simmers once they hit the yoga mat. Good energy begets good energy. Couldn’t we all use a little of that?

Photo credit: our local indy bookstore
  • 6. Buy their @%#! book!

This may sound weird, because technically you aren’t giving them anything. But trust me–you are! Telling an author you just bought their book is like giving them a warm hug wrapped in chocolate cake (without the mess). If you already PAID FOR their book–not already have it–(which, unless you are their mom, sorry but I doubt you have), then buy another one to give to a friend or donate to a school library or teen shelter or neighbor. Even if you know you’ll never read it–they don’t need to know that. Support your friend fer pete’s sake. It’s Christmas!

Buying it at a local independent bookstore (if they don’t carry it–ask them to order it) is more helpful then buying at the website where everything is 40% off, because it helps the local economy and introduces the bookseller to your author friend. [Fork over the retail price you cheapskate. The amount you’d have saved won’t even buy a cup of coffee.]

  • 7. Art 
    How can you not love artwork like the above, lettered on clear glass and matted in a circle? Head over to etsy  for this mantra made by JaneAustenandCo, or pick your/their favorite quote and make your own.

  • 8. Support — via a book review

If you’ve got zero money in your pocket but want to give SOMEthing, give a book review! Did you know that the number of book reviews can help boost a book’s placement on websites like Amazon Books and general Google searches? The more reviews, the higher  up it will likely show. Reviews of any kind are a HUGE factor, if not boost, to an author’s success. Even if they aren’t glowing reviews! A review shows the book has been read. And that the reader took the time to review it–which means it made an impact on the reader. In fact, a mention of the book in any form of social media is welcomed. I mean, who can’t give a free gift? Just make sure you’ve read the book, and make it a genuine review. Websites are cracking down on what they perceive to be “buddy reviews” and are deleting them without warning. Give a fair review. I mean sure–round up on the number of stars by all means–just don’t go too overboard on the comments or it’ll come across as fake. No one wants that, not even for the holidays.

If free is the only way you’re going this year, at a minimum, check out their book from a library–or ask your local library to carry their book (and tell your friend you did so). It might not seem like a big deal, but checking a book out of library, or even taking it off the shelf and having a librarian re-shelf it, can make a big difference in how long a library keeps a book. This is how a California librarian explained it: “If a book has not been checked out in a certain number of months, it gets chucked. Yep. And then [the] book will be gone from the system, forever.” Sad, right? She went on to say, “Basically, librarians are always actively looking for books to ‘weed.’ They have to get rid of books on a regular basis to make room for new ones coming in. If they find a book that hasn’t been checked out for ages, and it’s a book they love, they might put it on display or do something else to increase its circulation. But they might also just decide this book has lived its life, and because there is no demand for it anymore, it’s time to pass it on. Sad but reality. ” So check out your friends book(s)!

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  • 9. (Nice!) Clothes

Scarves, leggings, pins, you name it. A friend bought me a scarf that has banned books listed/crossed out. I sometimes wear it as a skirt–see above (writers are the creative type afterall). Other scarves have bookshelves [found on etsy, Amazon and Zazzle], ones with the text from your favorite novel such as the Alice in Wonderland scarf and other classics from storiarts, and ones (like above) that look like a stamped library due-date card. Google “books scarf” or “word scarf” or a similar combination and you’ll be amazed at the selection. Order now, though, as many are special order (and most likely worth it).

Then there are ADORABLE pins like a set of images from The Little Prince Book from Out of Print (typewrtiters, Edage Allen Poe with a Santa hat, oh…too many too list). They can go on the scarves or be standalone gifts–they are small in size but sure to win over any heart.

Leggings are fun too. I will warn against ordering leggings online without checking their material and reading reviews. I ordered a pair from a company that rhymes with Brave New Rook and while I’m sure the company is full of wonderful people, their leggings are HORRIBLE quality (100% polyester) and there was no way to tell from the their website how awful they’d feel or look in real life. The stitching is atrocious. The fact that there was only one review should have tipped me off. [They also took weeks to arrive but that’s another story]. You don’t have that issue with scarves so I’m thinking they are a safer sight-unseen purchase. And scarves look so classy!

All these suggestions are conversation starters too. Many writers are introverts so any are a welcomed party accessory.

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  • 10. Education

Sign your writer up for a class, a workshop, a conference. I love SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and it’s one nonprofit I can vouch for. Why not buy your writer an annual membership? It’ll last all year long (join SCBWI). Everyone has a chapter near them (check here for where yours might be) and every region hosts local events, meet ups, etc.  Kidlit411 has no membership fee, and offers a list of reputable places to look for events/conferences/workshops practically worldwide that might be wroth signing them up for. Other online and/or downloadable classes seem to be cropping up daily. Most are hosted by solid industry professionals and offer sessions year round. Just carefully investigate the credentials of who’s presenting, and comparison shop for prices. SCBWI tends to offer stellar webinars throughout the year, for example, for $10 or $15 members (only $20ish for nonmembers). Have a look at some upcoming ones here — check back often for updates. Make sure the topic is a good fit. I mean, don’t get your writer a workshop on editing if they haven’t even written their story yet; if that’s their situation, suggest they take a beginner’s class on how to write or how to get started first. 

  • 11. Some bling, or anything Harry Potter, or both

Jewelry is a slam dunk most of the time. So is anything Harry Potter. Harry Potter jewelry? Oh my. Then there’s simple bracelets like the one above, with bookish sayings, for $14. For your writer/illustrator friend, here’s a great crayon charm necklace for only $12! They’ve got it with typewriters too.  Plenty of jewelry out there for all tastes. Google key writing-type words or phrases and add “bracelet” or “necklace” to see what crops up. There’s lots.

  • 12. A professional critique 

We could all use a helping hand when it comes to making our writing better. Why not buy your writer a professional critique of their work? [Note: NEVER do this on the fly. ONLY go with a reputable, experienced author who you’ve gotten recommendations from. (What have they published recently, by what publishing house, to what acclaim? If you’ve never heard of them, get names of people they’ve critiqued for and see what they say.)] Here are some writers I can vouch for. There are plenty of others too! These are literally off the top of my head. Check them out yourself–carefully! You want to make sure you get the best fit for your specific work.

  1. Carol Munro,
  2. Nikki Shannon Smith, 
  3. ME! Bitsy Kemper,

13.  Better-than-your-average tee

Nothing I like better than supporting small businesses, especially when they have quality goods. This one even has a “Gifts for book lovers” page! I know, I know, the last thing we need is another book bag, but the book-themed tees are super cute. Anyone can find a crass shirt with text. Why not find a pretty one they WANT to wear, and can wear anyplace? Since I’ve purchased from this vendor before, she’s kindly offered up a 20% off for anyone to use as much as they want: KEMPER20 (and no, I get no profit or benefit from your purchase–I just like her stuff).

Regardless of what you get your writer, knowing you shopped with them in mind will make all the difference.  They will love you went out of your way for them!

When it’s all said and done, the particular gift you give isn’t what matters most. What matters most is how the particular gift made the recipient feel.

Lisa Bader, gift-giving expert,

I’m betting some of these you haven’t thought of. And maybe you’ll give one (or two?) a try? No excuses to not do SOMEthing! 

If you found other cool stuff, let me know. Or send it to me 🙂

Whatever part of the season you celebrate, may you celebrate it with love. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and, of course…

Happy Gift Giving!

Do you Want to Write For Hire? Take This Quiz to Decide


You may have wondered if Work For Hire is right for you. If you’re considering writing in the children’s book industry, I’ve created a quiz that might help. It’s based on my personal experiences as well as several colleagues I interviewed. [To give you some perspective on collective experience that I’m drawing from: I’ve written 16 kidlit titles for hire so far; picture books, chapter books, and YA–most of them as part of an existing series where the other titles were written by several other people. The fellow writers I talked to have authored close to 100 for-hire titles total.] We’ve all written for different editors and publishers, on different topics, in different genres, with different parameters. Every contract was in some way unique. But generally speaking, Work For Hire has similarities that differ from traditional publishing.

It’s not for everyone.

Is it for you?

First, a definition. “Writing for Hire” means a contract from a publisher or third party—usually from an outline, writing samples, or pitch—to write a book as assigned. For them. It

—might have pre-established characters and settings

—might be ghostwritten under someone else’s name

—might include a “tie-in” or “media-related” connection to an existing product, entity or trademark, such as a movie, comic book, game (typically referred to as intellectual property rights, or i/p)

Lawyers define it as “an exception to the general rule that the person who creates the work owns the copyright. If a work is made by an employee within the scope of their employment or if it was a specially commissioned contribution…it may be a work-for-hire. The employer or hiring party is considered to be the author and thus the copyright owner. A work-for-hire agreement must be signed by both parties before the creation of the commissioned work.” (emphasis mine)

Sometimes you work directly for a publisher. Sometimes you work for a middleman, called a book packager or book producer, who in turn works for the publisher. The book or series might be your idea, but is more likely their in-house idea that they are hiring out for–usually part of a series such as early readers featuring popular TV characters like Spongebob or a history series for K-3rd grade.

Bottom line is: you write it, they own it.

Quiz time:

  • Do you prefer innovation over purely-from-scratch invention? (More like, say, creating a collage than painting)
  • Can you work with a pre-existing format, one you didn’t create?
  • Can you write in someone else’s voice, and/or match the general tone/voice and target age range of an existing series?
  • Are you okay handing over your work and having someone else do whatever they want to before going to print–even though it (probably) has your name on it?Do you take direction well? (See earlier reference to pre-existing format and matching voice)
  • Are you good at research, note taking, keeping files of resources and interviews?
  • Can you handle rewrites without arguing? (See all of the above)
  • Are you good with deadlines–possibly short ones? (Typically in the six-eight month range, start to finish)
  • Can you handle someone else telling you exactly what needs to be done, then possibly changing gears midstream?
  • Are you okay getting a flat fee, with no royalties? (Note: there is a chance you’ll come out ahead this way. Slim chance, sure, but a chance.)
  • Are you okay with the fact that even though it has YOUR name on it, the contents and everything about it may not have been your preference or decision?

If most answers are Yeses, you might be on the right track.

If most questions made you clench, well, relax. Before you get too nervous, know that the publisher isn’t out to screw you. They don’t want to mess up your work on purpose. Their goal–like yours–is to get the best possible product in the hands of their customer/reader; but the main caveat is it’s usually the best product possible created in the shortest amount of time. You might disagree on what the best product ultimately looks/reads like. (It doesn’t matter though. They have final say. On everything.) Just know they really do have the best interest of the customer in mind. They want to sell books! This is their business! They fully understand a crappy book won’t sell as well as a well-written one. They don’t want to put their reputation on the line for shoddy quality. They have your back; their name is on the cover, too.

There are feel-good questions to ask yourself about Work For Hire too:

  • Would you like a shorter time to market? (That is–getting your book on the shelf faster? Most WFH is on the shelf within a year, vs up to potentially 2 to 5 or even 7 years later going the traditional route.)
  • Would you like getting paid in a timely manner? (Many pay half the fee upon acceptance of contract and the other half upon submission/completion of the work)
  • If the project is cancelled, would you still like to get paid some of the contracted amount? (Make sure you’ve got a “kill fee” in your contract!)
  • Do you like direct feedback on how to make your assigned work better?
  • Do you like taking an idea and running with it? (Assuming you are okay when they need to rein you back in)
  • Do you like a clean set of rules, with a detailed schedule, giving you less time to goof off online and on social media? [Maybe that’s just me, lol]
  • Do you like being in control of which projects you agree to and which you decline? (It’s always okay to say no thanks)
  • Do you like researching and choosing which publishers and packagers you work with?
  • Do you like having a built-in opportunity to work with the same WFH people again? (Assuming you’re not a jerk to work with…)
  • Do you like learning about new topics you may have never considered writing about?

And most importantly:

  • Do you want to get published?!

If you took this quiz and are a yes (wo)man, then Writing For Hire is for you! Give it a try!

How to go about finding Writing For Hire opportunities will be the topic of my next blog… Hint: it takes just as much effort as pitching your current manuscripts! But worth it.

If you’ve had experiences similar or in contrast to these Quiz questions, tell me about in in the comments. I love hearing anecdotal WFH stories.